Jack of Many Trades

How Not To Share

Originally posted: 2010-12-17

If you craft in public, you've probably heard all sorts of repetitive, even inane questions. "What are you doing?" and "what are you making?" are probably the most common, but people manage to come up with all sorts of questions that make crafters scratch their head and wonder what they're thinking. And yes, replying to them gets tiring. (Believe me, I've heard the eight hundred variations on "what are you doing?" that my girlfriend gets asked when she's knitting.)

It's important for a craftsperson, especially someone who plans to sell his or her work, to be willing to acknowledge the interest of others. Yeah, the questions may be inane, but they can also lead to really interesting conversation.

You can't see newbies as competition. See us as inspiration to do better, if you must, but without people interested in what you're doing, you're stuck with an ever-narrowing field of interest.

I'm still thinking about some artists I spoke with at the Festival of the Arts. One of the artists I spoke with works with wire crochet. I've just started experimenting with wire crochet and I'm still pretty awkward at it, but her stuff included some of the best wire crochet designs I've seen. I told her that it looked great, and that it gave me hope that eventually my wire crochet would look pretty good.

She replied that it had taken her fifteen years to get to that point and it was terribly complex, with the implication that I should just give up and buy her work instead of continuing to pursue it myself. I understand that she probably gets "I could make that!" a lot – people feel the need to say this at art all the time, as if to prove themselves superior.

In comparison, I spoke with a silversmith who made some gorgeous square-band rings. He explained the symbolism in the designs and what made each of them unique. He had no trouble sharing his pleasure in his craft with me and talking about how he worked. Even though he was from several generations of silversmiths, I never felt like he was talking down to me.

I think you can guess which of them I was more inclined to give my money to.

When other people come to you for advice, do you encourage them or do you cut them down? Or do you think there's a middle ground there?